Live coverage from Birmingham, where SB Nation is taking in the spectacle of SEC Media Days.
Just as reliable as the perennial rumors that Mark Richt sits astride a wobbly saddle of molten lava in Athens is the certainty that you'll never see him crack in front of a bank of microphones. Tanned, relaxed, and jocular, he holds hundreds of reporters in thrall to his pastoral charm so well that it's almost impossible to remember his team was last seen losing the Liberty Bowl to UCF. Highlights from charm school follow:
• On that pesky Liberty Bowl loss, without missing a beat: "Coach O'Leary outcoached me. Their team played harder than we did, and they deserved to win that game."
• On the depth issues beleaguering his team on offensive line and at tailback: "I think our depth is fine up front as long as we don't get hurt." There are no plans to move Orson Charles to the backfield.
• Richt pushed to schedule Georgia for this year's Chick-fil-A Kickoff game against Boise State because he felt the program had grown stagnant and could use some early-season excitement. He's not unaware of the challenge it poses, however: "The interesting thing about playing a team that might whip your tail is they might whip your tail."
• On Bronco Mendenhall's comments that spiraling SEC coaching salaries are the root of corruption in college football: "The love of money and the misuse of money is the root of all evil," but money itself is neutral, and he hasn't seen SEC coaches taking their cash reserves and doing bad works. (Nick Saban raises one eyebrow in his hotel suite, but says nothing.)
• On the surging prominence of the SEC West: "Well, the SEC East was down last year because we didn't win."
• On Aaron Murray: "Aaron is a coach's dream. When you have a guy like that, it just makes your job a whole lot easier."
• On the infamous black jersey adventures and this year's Nike Pro Combat unis, which the team has already seen: "I think the jersey change is a good idea when you win, and a bad idea when you lose. I can promise you they won't win the game for us." Nike takes offense to this, sirrah.
• On Will Muschamp, Georgia scion, coaching the Gators: "He'll tell you he's a Florida guy through and through, but I guarantee there's a little red and black in his veins." For Richt, this qualifies as a broadside, so enjoy that.
• UGA center Ben "Cooter" Jones crashes the press conference: "Coach, do you trust the Georgia O-line?"
• And one more time for the cheap seats, on the relative warmth of his posterior: "Keeping your job isn't difficult if you win."